Keeping a program simple ordinarily rules out expensive equipment. But some equipment will make it possible to add the spice of variety to the program. For example, barbells may help to make flexibility an easily achievable goal.
One or two exercise mats provide the base for many lying-down exercises. Mats can be purchased from sporting goods stores, ordered from mail-order houses, or made at home out of 1.5-inch foam rubber. If made at home, the mats can be covered with a fabric that goes with the room. The materials may be terry cloth, vinyl-coated fabric, canvas, or some other type that is soft, easily washed or wiped off, and durable.
If the mat has a line running down its center lengthenwise, it will make body alignment a simple task. The line can be made out of a similar fabric of a different color from the mat covering proper.
The mat or mats should be sized to fit the individual’s body. The perfect mat is somewhat longer than the user is tall, and wide enough to provide protection against bumps and bruises. That means it should be wider than a line drawn from heel to heel when the person lies flat and stretches both legs as far apart as possible. Another way to measure the idea; mat width is to lie flat and extend elbows as far as possible straight out from the shoulders. The points reached by the elbows indicate a good width. The good mat has plenty of “give.” It also springs back into position when pressure is removed.
Choosing and arranging permanent equipment may take a little thought. With care and planning, the room’s appearance need not really suffer. Equipment may come in chrome, steel, or natural wood.
If, on the other hand, Spartan simplicity is preferable, formal equipment may be dispensed with totally. Many exercises can be performed without any equipment at all. For example, various sets of exercises have been designed for practice in the shower, sitting down at the work desk, or standing up in an ordinary room.
Many household items can be converted to exercise props. Weights can me made out of plastic detergent or bleach containers. The containers need only be filled with sand or water. If desired, the weights can be attached to the ends of a bar made of a broom or mop handle. Numerous heavy objects such as ski boots, telephone books, or bricks wrapped in towels can also be incorporated into exercise routines.
A little creativity can turn other everyday items into perfectly adequate fitness equipment. A length of clothesline makes an admirable jump rope. Two solid chairs of the same size can be placed back to back a couple of feet apart to form parallel bars. A heavy towel, held with arms spread an appropriate distance, can be used to provide both variable resistance and a massaging effect. Different exercises to increase endurance, equilibrium, speed, suppleness, strength, and coordination have been devised utilizing lengths of cloth.